Columbia public safety

City changes course on inmate drop-offs planned for Vista

cwinston@thestate.comNovember 8, 2013 

Columbia Police Administration Bldg (2013)


— Columbia’s plan to drop off freed jail detainees at the police department in the Vista concerned some business owners this week. But interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago on Friday announced a new plan meant to satisfy business owners while also providing important services to detainees who are released after 7:30 p.m. from the county’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

The new plan was scheduled to go into effect Friday evening. And Santiago said he would be there in person to ensure everything goes smoothly.

“I want to monitor it for myself,” Santiago said. “We want to make sure it’s going to work.”

The plan is an expansion of the current partnership with the city’s emergency homeless shelter’s services provider, Christ Central Ministries, to provide a central location for recent inmates who need immediate emergency services. Previously, prisoners were released after-hours at the main bus terminal, on Sumter Street in the city’s center, where Santiago said temptations could run high and no services were available if inmates had no one they could call to come pick them up and take them home or elsewhere.

But, Santiago said, at the emergency shelter, near the city water plant off Huger Street, freed inmates will be provided access to transportation within a 17-mile radius, food, phones and a place to rest. The initial plan to bring folks to the city’s police station in the Vista was simply a “stop-gap” measure that often would lead to former prisoners being taken to the shelter anyway, if they had no place else to go. The long-term plan was always to drop off the released inmates at the emergency shelter, so the process was simply sped up.

The Vista Guild, an association of business owners who represent the popular section of downtown, is pleased with the change.

“We fully support this newer version of the plan and CPD’s support in protecting our patrons,” the association responded from its Twitter account.

Santiago said the expanded partnership would be monitored daily and that weekly meetings would be held between the group organizing the shelter, city officials and police. After some undetermined amount of time, he hopes this will become the final plan.

Additional patrols will be stationed in the area in the coming days and weeks to make sure police are highly visible, Santiago said.

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